Ice Cream For Dinner Night, The Most Beloved Of Summer Traditions

Welcome to Turn Off The Oven Week, featuring creative ways to beat the heat and stay far away from your stovetop.

Like a lot of traditions, the beginning of Ice Cream For Dinner Night is shrouded in the mists of time. All right, that's not entirely true. I know it happened one hot summer evening not too long ago, but I would be hard-pressed to tell you the date or even the year. All I know is that it arose out of necessity, and it turned out to be so delightful, it was repeated until it became a tradition.

What happened was that my friend Amy and I planned to meet for dinner one summer night after work. We had planned this outing quite a bit in advance because this is what you do when one friend (that would be her) actually likes doing things other than hermitting after work. It turned out to be a very hot day, but we decided to meet anyway because we were hungry and because it wasn't worth another two days of texting to set up another dinner.

At the appointed time and train stop, we stood on a street corner, already perspiring heavily, and considered our options. There was pizza. There was a gastropub. Further afield, there were tacos. None of it seemed very appetizing because it was all cooked. There was also an ice cream parlor, the old-school kind with only the classic flavors, real hot fudge, and a sundae menu that probably hadn't changed since the place opened in the 1920s.

I know I was the one who suggested we eat ice cream for dinner because that's something I do from time to time (at home) while Amy is the sort of responsible adult who tells herself to eat her vegetables and listens. So we went and got sundaes—she probably got a brownie sundae and I got a turtle with coffee ice cream—and we ate them outside and pretended they cooled us down a bit. Even if they didn't really, they made us very happy. Amy enjoyed the illicit nature of eating ice cream for dinner. I just enjoyed eating a sundae.

The following summer, we once again made plans to meet up for dinner on a hot day and decided to screw all pretenses and go directly for the ice cream. By the third summer, it had become a Tradition, specially planned regardless of the weather.

Now because it's a Tradition, it's about more than eating ice cream. It's about eating our sundaes—the ice cream must always be sundaes, never cones—and thinking about Ice Cream For Dinner Nights past, which then, of course, expands to include other great moments in our friendship. Eating an ice cream sundae is not like seeing the same movie over and over again. The difference is that you never really outgrow ice cream sundaes, or the thrill of eating them for dinner, and the whole tradition never, ever grows old. I hope Ice Cream For Dinner Night goes on forever.